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French-Spanish venture wins contract to run Welsh rail services

Keolis/Amey was awarded a 15-year deal.

A train on a track

A joint venture between French and Spanish companies has been given a contract to run rail services in Wales.

Keolis/Amey was awarded the 15-year contract ahead of Hong Kong-based MTR.

Arriva, which has been operating the franchise for 15 years, pulled out of the bidding last year.


Passenger rail journeys in Britain on services owned by different countries (PA Graphics)

Passenger rail journeys in Britain on services owned by different countries (PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

Passenger rail journeys in Britain on services owned by different countries (PA Graphics)

A statement by the Welsh Government said: “Final tenders were received from three companies in December 2017. 

“One of those tenders was subsequently withdrawn and the two remaining bids were evaluated, with each bid being assessed for its quality, robustness and ability to deliver on the Welsh Government’s policy priorities, as set out in ‘Rail Services for the Future’.

“Throughout the procurement process we have prioritised investment in the quality of trains, stations and services for the Wales and Borders Rail Service and South Wales Metro.”

Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT policy is for a national integrated railway under public ownership, and the Welsh Government has made it clear that this is their aspiration as well if they did not have to work under the pro-privatisation legislative straitjacket imposed by the UK Government.

“The fact that rail privatisation is being enforced on the people of Wales by Whitehall is even more galling when the Tories have been forced to nationalise East Coast and the Westminster cross-party Public Accounts Committee have said the rail franchising model is broken.

“However, RMT welcomes the fact that despite these constraints the Welsh Government has committed to keep a guard on every train alongside other commitments to work with RMT to protect jobs and conditions of rail workers in Wales.”

The move continues the awarding of contracts to run rail services in the UK by foreign firms, often state owned.


Mick Cash

Mick Cash

PA Archive/PA Images

Mick Cash

Keolis is three-quarters owned by French state railway SNCF.

Keolis/Amey already runs the Docklands Light Railway in London and the Manchester Metrolink.

Keolis also runs Nottingham’s trams.

The new contract starts in October.

Jeremy Long, chief executive of European business at the MTR Corporation, said: “Congratulations to Keolis/Amey, we wish them every success with the franchise.

“MTR is very disappointed not to have been chosen to run the Wales and Borders franchise, and not to have the opportunity to bring our proven record of providing excellent passenger service, and of successfully delivering railway infrastructure, for the benefit of passengers and the wider community in Wales.”

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said: “Instead of the Welsh taxpayers subsidising the the railways of Berlin and Bonn, they’ll be contributing to the railways of Paris and Provence.

“This is not a good deal for the future of rail in Wales and this announcement shows that for all the talk of devolution and taking back control, when it comes to rail infrastructure, it’s all just hot air.

“In the interests of corporate transparency, the Welsh government should have issued this morning’s press release on the proposed new franchise holders in French and Spanish as well as English and Welsh.

“What a wasted opportunity by the Welsh Assembly not to have sought public ownership of this franchise or at the very least, a not-for-profit operator.

“But madder still is that the Spanish and the French can follow in the tracks of the German government-owned Arriva and run trains in Wales but not the Welsh government.”